Alex Rodriguez's decade as a New York Yankee has been a roller-coaster ride to say the least. There have unquestionably been some memorable triumphs, but whenever he and the Bronx Bombers ultimately part ways, his tenure will likely be remembered for controversy rather than success.
A-Rod has missed all of the 2013 MLB season to this point after undergoing offseason hip surgery, but he was scheduled to make his debut on Monday, July 22, after a lengthy rehab assignment in the minors. Rodriguez reportedly suffered a quad strain, however, and he has been out of commission for the past few days.
According to SportsCenter on Twitter, A-Rod and his representatives believe the Yankees are conspiring against him in an effort to keep him off the field:
Dr. Michael Gross, an orthopedic surgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center, came out in the media and said that Rodriguez's quad ailment shouldn't prevent him from playing, according to Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com:
I spoke with Alex on the phone, and I asked him if he has any pain and he said, "I don't." I said, "Do you have an injury?" And he said, "I don't." He said, "Would you be willing to say I'm ready to play?" I said, "No, I'm not willing to say that. I've never examined you. I've looked at your MRI." But I asked him if you think you are ready to play and he said, "Yes."
It's unlikely Rodriguez and his representatives will be able to prove that the Yankees organization is colluding against him, but with everything surrounding Rodriguez at the moment, it certainly wouldn't be surprising if the Yankees are trying to slow his progress.
Rodriguez is currently facing a possible suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, as reported by Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun recently negotiated a suspension for the remainder of the season, according to Erik Brady of USA Today, but there is some belief that Rodriguez could be in for a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.
Checkered PED Past
A-Rod has been linked to performance-enhancing drugs for the past several years, as he admitted in 2009 that he used them as a member of the Texas Rangers for three years beginning in 2001, according to ESPN.com:
Back then, [baseball] was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time.
I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.
A-Rod Invades Big Apple
A-Rod's issues started well before that, though, as he was never fully embraced by Yankees fans. According to CBS Sports, Rodriguez's initial preference was to be traded from the Rangers to the Boston Red Sox in 2003. That deal fell through, however, and Texas ultimately sent A-Rod to the Yankees in exchange for Alfonso Soriano.
Rodriguez switched from shortstop to third base in order to accommodate captain Derek Jeter, and he flourished from a statistical standpoint. A-Rod had at least 35 home runs and 100 RBI in each of his first five seasons with the Yankees, and he took home two American League MVP awards during that span.
Despite his regular-season success, Rodriguez's playoff struggles made him a punch line in New York newspapers. After their famed 2004 ALCS series, in which the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the next four games and eventually the World Series, the Yanks lost in the American League Division Series in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The common denominator in the division series was A-Rod's failure to produce. He couldn't rise to the occasion in big moments and quickly became synonymous with the term "choke artist."
Historic Contract Extension
A-Rod's postseason issues didn't stop him from opting out of the 10-year, $252 million deal he originally signed with the Rangers. Following the 2007 season, Rodriguez decided to test free agency. The Yankees were unwilling to let him go, and they negotiated a record 10-year, $275 million pact.
A-Rod Helps Yanks Reach 27th Heaven
The Yankees caught plenty of flak for the contract, as Rodriguez hadn't yet led them to a World Series title, but the deal would pay big dividends just two years later. A-Rod finally broke through in 2009 and was the driving force behind the Yankees' 27th World Series championship.
Hideki Matsui won the World Series MVP award, but without the contributions of Rodriguez, there is no chance the Yanks would have reigned supreme. Rodriguez finished the postseason with six home runs, 18 RBI and a .365 batting average, looking every bit like the best player in baseball.
Playoff Struggles Return
Unfortunately for A-Rod, the honeymoon didn't last long, as his playoff performances since then have been putrid. He hasn't hit a postseason home run since his magical 2009 showing, and he was actually lifted for pinch hitter Raul Ibanez in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers last year. Ibanez proved manager Joe Girardi right by going yard, but it left plenty of unanswered questions with regard to A-Rod's status with the Yanks.
Yankees Look for Way Out
According to ESPN's Matthews and Marchand, the Yankees tried to rid themselves of A-Rod during the offseason. It was reported that the Yankees organization planned to explore the possibility of voiding the five years and $114 million remaining on his contract if Major League Baseball decided to discipline him for involvement with performance-enhancing drugs.
No punishment has come down yet, but voiding A-Rod's contract won't be an option for the Yankees regardless of what happens, according to Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
With that said, Rodriguez now finds himself in no man's land. He reportedly believes he is ready to play, but the Yankees have yet to clear him. With New York struggling to score runs this season due to injuries to the likes of Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, it's telling that the organization may not want A-Rod to step in.
His production has fallen off in recent years, but Rodriguez has 647 career home runs and would be a surefire Hall of Famer if not for the PED situation he finds himself in. There is no question the Yankees would be better off with A-Rod at third base than someone like Luis Cruz, but there is more to A-Rod than on-field play at this point.
Cashman Fed Up with A-Rod
The Yankees' frustration with Rodriguez became blatantly obvious in June when Yankees general manager Brian Cashman bashed A-Rod after he tweeted that the doctor cleared him to begin playing:
According to Marchand, Cashman didn't pull any punches upon hearing about Rodriguez's tweet: "You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will]. Alex should just shut the f--- up. That's it. I'm going to call Alex now."
That one quote speaks volumes, as it seemed to be a release of years of frustration on Cashman's part. While A-Rod did help deliver one World Series title to the Bronx, he has been much maligned over the years, and Cashman's decision to trade for and re-sign Rodriguez has been picked apart as well.
As much as Cashman might like to move Rodriguez, he'll have a difficult time finding any suitors unless the Yankees eat the vast majority of his contract. Cashman is trapped, and it seems like he knows it.
Few could have anticipated the headache that Rodriguez would become when the Yankees acquired him amid much fanfare in 2003, but at this point, it seems the Yankees organization and many of its fans would throw a similar celebration if A-Rod was sent packing.
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